President Barack Obama, making a statement at the White House, announced that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner had been ousted, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The tempest about the Tea Parties and the Internal Revenue Service is a gift for the Republican Party — and one that obscures the real issues.

Why, for example, has the IRS been so indulgent of far bigger, flagrantly partisan tax-exempt groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity?  Such groups spent hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars to influence the last two elections, in clear violation of IRS rules.

If the IRS is supposedly so zealous about tax enforcement, why has it left on the table hundreds of billions of dollars in offshore tax evasion by the wealthiest — money owed to the Treasury that could reduce the budget deficit?

As Republicans mount hearings to pillory the IRS, beginning Friday when the House Ways and Means Committee officially reviews the Treasury Inspector General’s Report on the Tea Party affair, these crucial issues will likely be sidelined. And the Republicans don’t have entirely clean hands.